Greater Western Sydney forward Haneen Zreika will miss next weekend’s AFLW match against Hawthorn to avoid wearing the team’s pride jumper on religious grounds.
The 23-year-old, will not feature in the Round 8 contest at Henson Park on Sunday, October 16, marking the second-consecutive season that she’ll miss the AFLW Pride round, The Herald Sun reports.
The practising Muslim also missed last season’s match against the Western Bulldogs in Sydney after refusing to wear the Giants’ rainbow jersey, which shows support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
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Zreika became the first Islamic footballer to play in the AFLW after making her debut in 2019, kicking six goals in 36 games since.
She played during the AFLW pride round in 2021, but the Giants did not wear a pride jumper that season.
“As the first Australian Muslim woman in the AFLW, I have a responsibility to represent my faith and my community,” she wrote in a statement in January.
“I respect people regardless of their sexual orientation.
“This decision was extremely difficult and I appreciate the support of the AFL, Giants and my teammates.
“Inclusion is about creating a space where people are able to respect their right to choose how they live their life as long as they don’t advocate hate and division.”
Speaking on Disney+ documentary series Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW, Zreika explained how the pride jersey made her feeling like an “outsider” in the competition.
“Coming into this, I never thought it would be an issue,” she said.
“I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, until the AFL rejected me from wearing a normal jersey. That was a shock to me. I love what the AFL do and the way they include everyone, but you can’t have a round where you include people but exclude someone that it impacts their faith.
“I really feel like an outsider, like, ‘No mate, you’re not part of us’.
“I always respect everyone, no matter what they are or where they come from.
“But obviously I take my religion seriously.
“They can be whatever they want. I still love and respect them and they’re still my mates.”
The Giants, who are currently 13th on the AFLW ladder after claiming two wins from their opening six rounds, will next face Collingwood at Victoria Park on Sunday, with the first bounce scheduled for 5.10pm AEDT.